Volume 74, Number 35 | January 05 - 11, 2005

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Apples are always in season at the Union Sq. Greenmarket

Greenmarket shrinks to a hardy core in winter months

By S.T. VanAirsdale

On a recent Wednesday, Alex Paffenroth stood in front of his propane heater and watched the evening looming over his produce stand at the Union Sq. Greenmarket. He had left his farm in Warwick that morning at 5 a.m., and 12 windblown hours later, he was ready to call it a day.

“Well, today was iffy,” he said, helping a late rush of customers. “But it’s going to have to be pretty bad weather for me to stay home.”

Paffenroth is one of only 19 vendors who maintain a year-round presence at the Union Sq. Greenmarket, which at its summertime height boasts more than 70 stands selling everything from pineapple mint to heirloom tomatoes.

When changing seasons slim down those vendors’ crops, however, the majority go into hibernation until spring. For those like Paffenroth who also cultivate resilient root vegetables, like potatoes, carrots and onions, business carries on — in rain, shine or snow.

Greenmarket manager Gabrielle Langholtz said that the products at the market must be sold by the farmers who produced them. This policy assures that buyers are receiving the freshest products, all in season.

“Unlike the grocery store, we don’t send out for fruits from China or order anything from California,” Langholtz added. “We only sell things that are grown in New York City’s backyard.”

And it is a big backyard even in the winter, featuring vendors from Upstate, New Jersey, Connecticut and beyond.

Meat vendor Ron Kipps leaves West Clifford, Penn., at midnight to sell his fresh beef and bison starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Saturday. He said he routinely braves snow and ice to come to the Greenmarket, as do his customers.

“Meat is a year-round commodity,” he explained. “Business actually picks up in the winter. We’ll sell more roast and stewing items during this time of year.”

Other vendors re-introduce seasonal products like ciders and homespun wool. Karen Weinberg is one of the even rarer vendors who sells her dairy, meat and cheese products only during the fall and the winter.

Weinberg said that while her Greenmarket business slows down in extremely cold weather, she welcomes a loyal clientele of hundreds every winter.

“We also have 10 to 12 restaurants who buy on a steady basis,” said Weinberg, who travels nine hours round-trip from her farm in Washington County. “So we know we’ll have a couple of sales under our belt before we even set up our canopy.”

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